Carbon capture and recycling specialist LanzaTech claims to have found a way to produce plastic using carbon dioxide captured at steel mills or gasified waste biomass plants.
The company announced yesterday that it had discovered a new way to make monoethylene glycol (MEG), which is a key building block for polyethylene terephthalate, everyday or PET – the plastic used in a wide range of items, including bottles and clothes.
LanzaTech explained it had identified a technique for using “engineered bacterium” to convert captured carbon emissions directly into MEG through fermentation.
This alternative production method could both simplify the MEG supply chain and reduce its climate impact, according to LanzaTech, because it enables operators to bypass multiple processing steps required to convert ethanol into ethylene, and then ethylene oxide into MEG.
Jennifer Holmgren, CEO at LanzaTech, said the discovery held major potential to reduce the climate impacts of PET production. “We have made a breakthrough in the production of sustainable PET that has vast potential to reduce the overall environmental impact of the process,” she said. “This is a technological breakthrough which could have a significant impact, with applications in multiple sectors, including packaging and textiles.”
The company said it anticipated the direct production process would lead to PET bottles and PET fibers with a reduced environmental impact, once it had been scaled successfully after a multiyear development phase.
It said it had made the discovery while working as part of a consortium of companies that aims to improve the environmental impact of packaging.
Consumer goods giant Danone, another member of the consortium, confirmed that it would now support LanzaTech to develop the technology from the current proof-of-concept stage.
“We have been working with LanzaTech for years and strongly believe in the long-term capacity of this technology to become a game changer in the way to manage sustainable packaging materials production,” said Pascal Chapon, Danone R&I advanced techno materials director. “This technological collaboration is a key enabler to accelerate the development of this promising technology”.